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Sled Dog Information & Terminology
Member No.: 167
Joined: 25-November 11
Lead Dog(s) or Leader -- The dog(s) that run in front of the team. A double lead is when two dogs lead running side-by-side at the front.
Swing Dog or Dogs -- Dog that runs directly behind the leader. Further identified as right or left swing depending on which side of the gangline he/she is positioned on. Swing dogs help the leaders set the pace and aid in turning the team. If only the leaders wanted to turn in the direction of the musher's commands, the team may not turn, so the swing dogs back the leaders up in these cases.
Team Dog -- The job of team dogs is to follow the dog in front of them and steadily pull. They provide the "horsepower."
Wheel Dogs -- Dogs placed directly in front of the sled. Their job is to pull the sled out and around corners or trees.
Anatomy of a Dog Sled
Mainline (Centerline) -- This is the central line that runs the length of the team from the leaders to the sled. This part of the towline is usually made of 3/8" or 1/2" thick rope and reinforced with steel cable.
Tugline -- This is the line that connects the dog's harness to the mainline.
Neckline -- This is the line that connects the dog's collar to the mainline. This line is important as a safety measure because it prevents a dog from going too far out to the side and potentially going the wrong way around a tree or obstacle in the trail. If a dog were to go the wrong way around an obstacle or tree, the snap on the neckline is designed to break away, allowing the musher time to react and stop the team and move the dog to the correct side of the obstacle.
Leader Line -- The center line ends at the swing dogs' necklines. From there, two tuglines extend forward to connect the leaders. A neckline not attached to the rest of the towline is then used to connect the collars of the two lead dogs.
Shock Cord -- This is essentially a gigantic rubber band that is placed between the sled and the rest of the towline. If the sled stops suddenly or hits a tree, the shock cord absorbs the impact and prevents the impact from jarring the dogs. A safety line accompanies the rubber band and acts as a stretch limiter.
Runners -- the skis that slide along the snow and support the rest of the sled. Runners traditionally were made of wood or wood laminate, but aluminum and other composite materials are becoming popular. Contemporary dog sleds have plastic on the bottom of the runner. This provides a slick surface and reduces drag. The plastic slides on and off easily, facilitating quick changing.
Cargo Bed -- the portion of the sled designed for carrying the load. Most sleds have Sled Bags which are placed on the cargo bed and serve as "backpacks" to hold and protect equipment and supplies.
Brushbow -- the "bumper" of the sled that deflects trees and brush and takes hits in collisions. The brushbows were traditionally made of wood and were semi-circular in shape. Most modern sleds have plastic brushbows that are both stronger and more resilient, and usually more triangular in shape.
Footboards -- usually made of rubber or some non-skid material, these are the narrow boards mounted on the ends of the runners where the musher stands.
Brake -- again, pretty self-explanatory, but very important. The brake is an aluminum or steel bar in a U-shape. Two metal claws hang down from the bar. When the bar is stepped on, the claws dig into the snow to slow and stop the team.
Snow Hook -- an anchor made of metal used to keep the team stopped. The hooks are angled so that continued pulling digs them deeper into the snow. This helps keep an excited dog team stopped.
Track or Drag -- a rubber mat that is dragged between the runners. This is a second braking mechanism. The advantage of a drag is that the resistance it supplies is much more uniform than the resistance supplied by a regular claw brake. This is because the track drags over the top of the trail to slow the team while the claw brake digs into the trail. Many tracks contain bolts that stick about an inch into the trail to give them extra "bite."
Snubline -- a rope that is used to secure the sled and team to a tree or other stable object. This is very handy when hooking up a dog team, or when stopping for extended periods. Most snublines also contain a quick-release snap, which eliminates the need to tie knots to secure the sled.
Hike Up! -- This is the command to start moving or to go faster. Some mushers also simply say "Okay, Let's Go!" or "All Right!," but Mush! is not really used as seen in the movies.
Whoa! -- The command to stop.
Gee (pronounced like the letter of the alphabet) -- This is the command for turning or moving right.
Gee Over -- Move to the right side of the trail.
Come Gee -- Right U-Turn.
Haw -- This is the command for turning or moving left.
Haw Over -- Move to the left side of the trail.
Come Haw -- Left U-Turn.
Straight Ahead -- Exactly what it implies. Used at intersections or when passing other dog teams or snowmobiles.
On By -– Pass the other team (either head on or around), also used as a command to ignore distractions.
Leave It! – A more forceful command to ignore distractions.
Easy -- Go a little slower.
Go Home -– We are returning home. The faster you run, the sooner you'll get fed.
Misc Facts - Speed, Sled Weight, Ect
All northern breeds of dogs are essentially 'sled dogs'. Alaskan Malamutes, Siberian Huskies, Alaskan Huskies, American Eskimo Dogs, Greenlands, Samoyeds, or any 'mixed' breed that has the strength and speed to pull a sled. A dogsled team can hit speeds of up to 30 Miles-Per-Hour for a short distance, but it is inefficient to go that fast for very far; so an efficient, competitive speed would be a constant 11 or 12 Miles-Per-Hour. A light, modern, racing sled weighs around 40 lbs. Mushers also carry an additional 100 or so pounds of mandatory food, supplies, clothing, lines, repair kit, etc. Depending on the size of the musher this brings the total weight of the sled to 300-400 pounds.